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NPS Promotes STEM Fields Through Expanding Your Horizons Conference

Article By: MC1 Leonardo Carrillo

For most kids, Saturday mornings are usually spent sleeping in, chatting with friends, or playing video games – but for a group of motivated girls from Monterey County schools, it was a different story. From all around the local county, and even from the San Francisco and Sacramento regions, young girls got up early Saturday, Oct. 27, for a day of exposure to science and technology thanks to the Expanding Your Horizons (EYH) Conference held at the Naval Postgraduate School (NPS).

More than 240 girls from grades 5-10 gathered at NPS’ Monterey campus for the daylong event meant to promote interest in the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields. The event included a series of hands-on workshops that exposed the students to possible careers or studies in STEM.

“Over the years, we’ve seen a decrease in interest in the science fields and we want to change that,” explained EYH organizer Dr. Dave Nickles, NPS Director of Research Communications and Outreach. “This is what makes this conference so great … The kids get hands-on experience in science activities and they leave here believing that they can work in these fields.”

NPS President Dan Oliver gives opening remarks during the Expanding Your Horizons conference (EYH), held Oct. 27 on campus. The event was a daylong, hands-on conference for girls grades 5-10 that is meant to promote interest in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) in these young students. 

This year the conference offered a series of workshops led by professionals in the fields of robotics, geology, mathematics, and other sciences. The girls were able to conduct experiments and even had the opportunity to operate underwater robots to collect an item from the bottom of a pool.

The girls also got the opportunity to participate in a career fair where they were able to interact with professionals in different STEM related fields. They were able to ask questions and learn about the different pathways they could take to work in their respective fields.

As a special treat the students got the opportunity to listen to a local Monterey scientist. Representing the Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History, Ann Wasser gave an energetic speech about her life as a scientist and how she became interested in science.

“I was thrilled to be asked to be a part of this and I think it’s really important for these girls to have experiences like this to keep them excited about science,” said Wasser. “I was always a science nerd … and it was fun to be in a room with a group full of girls that enjoy science too.”

Wasser said that it was important to keep these kids interested in the sciences because, as they get older and enter into high school, their interests would begin to change and they could possibly lose interest. She said that if these kids can remain interested in the sciences, their possibilities are endless and they would have better options for the future. “I think this is very important, I love being a part of this, and I hope to be a part of it in the future,” she added.

The conference held at NPS saw a significant amount of participation from a multitude of groups and organizations. Aside from the 248 girls that registered to participate in the event, there were 23 Monterey County teachers leading the workshops, over a dozen organizations hosting the career fair, more than 40 volunteers including female professionals from around the local area leading the workshops, and a number of NPS faculty, staff and student volunteers helping throughout the day. There was even participation from industry giants such as Chevron, Google and others.

“Having all these people and organizations show their support shows you how important this is,” said NPS President Dan Oliver. “It shows you how many folks are really interested in helping these girls achieve their goals, especially if they are in STEM fields.”

As a graduate university, the mission of NPS is to educate its students in unique programs relevant to national security and global stability. But the passion by dedicated NPS faculty and staff, working beyond their day-to-day responsibilities, demonstrates the value placed on what Oliver notes is critical to future American defense.

“These young people are our future,” said Oliver. “Many of the solutions to the challenges of national security now, and in the future, have their roots embedded in STEM. To the extent that we can encourage bright young people – in this case, young girls and young women – to get excited about these fields, and go into them, it helps ensure the future of our country.”

EYH was started in 1974 by a group of female engineers and educators from the San Francisco Bay Area that noticed a lack of participation from females in the sciences and they decided to do something about it. Originally called the Math Science Network, the EYH Network began planning coordinated efforts to strengthen their individual programs and provide mutual support on a volunteer basis. Their mission was to encourage young women to pursue STEM careers and motivate young girls to become innovative and creative thinkers to be able to meet the challenges of the future. Today, EYH conferences are held in 31 states across the United States and in several countries in Europe and Asia.

Posted November 13, 2012

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